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The district's proposed courses include construction, sustainable agriculture and computer science

The Hillsboro School District has received more than $400,000 from the state to expand its career and technical education programs for students.

The district announced last month it had been awarded $434,000 in CTE revitalization grants from the Oregon Department of Education in order to expand its bioscience technologies program at Hillsboro High School and create a summer camp for underserved students.

Aimed at introducing students to the world of modern biological research and its impacts on society, Bioscience Technologies is a new career pathway being offered at Hilhi this year, according to Beth Graser, a spokeswoman with the Hillsboro School District.

The program is the first full Bioscience Career-Technical Pathway in Oregon, and works in partnership with Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus, according to Hillsboro biology teacher, Brian Pendergrass. Much of the course work for the first-year class is based on PCC's Intro to Bioscience Technology program.

"If you can get one year done before you graduate [from high school], (you can) go to PCC to do the other year, and go get a job," Pendergrass said. "That's the dream pathway."

Currently, the bioscience lab is crammed into a small space behind Pendergrass' classroom. The counters are sparse, and the lab is only big enough for a dozen or so students to fit comfortably.

The new lab will include eight lab stations with room for four students at each station. They'll have new equipment — a spectrometer, an autoclave, a fume hood or two — and a big freezer to hold experiments.

It's a big step up for Pendergrass.

"Our old refrigerator just died, so all we have is a small mini fridge," he said. "Right now, half of it has my food, and half has the bio-chemicals in bottles."

The program has already proven to be successful, Pendergrass said. He expected about 25 students to sign up for the introductory class this year, but instead has been teaching two classes of 40 students each.

The CTE grant funding will also have an impact on Latino students this summer.

The district has plans to launch a CTE Summer Innovation camp, where students will design a product, developing a business plan, build and test it, then present it to the community within the two-week-long course.

The camp aims to serve Latino students and other historically underserved students, Graser said.

The two programs are part of a larger efforts to expand the Hillsboro School District's Career-Technical Education offerings. The district will receive $5.9 million in the 2017-19 biennium for CTE programs, in addition to funds from the capital construction bond voters approved in November and the state CTE grants.

Last month, the Hillsboro School Board heard proposals on seven new CTE courses from district teachers, and will rule on courses in January.

The bio-tech program is one of several new tech-related courses being started across the district, including a veterinary science program and computer science classes at Hillsboro; drafting and sustainable agriculture classes at Liberty High, a class on home building and construction at Glencoe High and computer game programming classes at Century High.

Reporter Geoff Pursinger contributed to this report.

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